Common Ground: the sustainable development goals and the marketing and advertising industry

Date01 May 2018
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1002/pa.1619
Published date01 May 2018
COMMENTARY
Common Ground: the sustainable development goals and the
marketing and advertising industry
Peter Jones
1
|Daphne Comfort
1
|David Hillier
2
1
The Business School, University of
Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, UK
2
Centre for Police Sciences, University of
South Wales, Pontypridd, Wales, UK
Correspondence
Peter Jones, The Business School, University of
Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, UK.
Email: pjones@glos.ac.uk
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed at a United Nations General Assembly in
2015, embrace an ambitious and wideranging set of global environmental, social, and economic
issues designed to effect a transition to a more sustainable future. The United Nations called on
all governments to not only pursue these ambitious goals but also acknowledged the important
role of the business community in addressing the SDGs. The high profile launch in June 2016
of the Common Groundinitiative to support the SDGs by Ban Kimoon, United Nations General
Secretary, and six of the world's leading marketing and advertising companies, namely, Dentsu,
Havas, IPG, Omnicom group, Publicis Group, and WPP might be seen to herald a new era in
the transition to a more sustainable future. This paper outlines the SDGs and business engage-
ment with them, reviews the sustainably strategies and achievements currently being publicly
reported by the six leading advertising and marketing companies, and offers some reflections
on a number of the challenges these companies will face in contributing to the SDGs.
1|INTRODUCTION
While Mont and Power (2010) recognized that current advertising and
marketing encourages high levels of material consumption, they also
argued that the marketing and advertising strategies currently used
to promote nonsustainable consumption patterns could just as easily
be used to promote environmentally sound products and more sus-
tainable lifestyles. Three years later, Henderson (CSRwire, 2013)
argued that although the global advertising industry has encountered
increasing criticism for promoting unsustainable consumerism, there
was evidence that a new ethic is afoot in the industry, which was
spearheading advertising's transition to sustainabilityand was being
led by a new wave of creative agencies and practitioners. More
generally, The Guardian (2014) suggested that it was the small adverti-
sing companies that were most active in pursuing sustainability
agendas, but they tended to lack the consumer understanding, brand
expertise, and the creative fire power of the big ad agenciesand they
often lack the right client relationships. However, the high profile
launch in June 2016 of the Common Groundinitiative to support
the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) by Ban Kimoon, United
Nations General Secretary, and six of the world's leading marketing
and advertising companies, namely, Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom
group, Publicis Group, and WPP, would seem to herald a new era.
One that could see the marketing and advertising industry take a much
more active and prominent role promoting the transition to a more
sustainable future. With this in mind, this commentary paper outlines
the SDGs and business engagement with them, reviews the sus-
tainable strategies and achievements currently being publicly reported
by the six leading advertising and marketing companies, and offers
some reflections on some of the challenges these companies will face
in contributing to the SDGs.
2|THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
GOALS AND BUSINESS ENGAGEMENT
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed at a United
Nations General Assembly in September 2015, were described as a
plan of action for people, planet and prosperity(United Nations,
2015a). These goals are extremely ambitious and embrace a wide
range of environmental, social, and economic issues including climate
change, energy, water stewardship, marine conservation, biodiversity,
poverty, food security, sustainable production and consumption,
gender equality, and economic growth. The SDGs have been described
as demonstrating the scale and ambitionof the United Nations 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is designed to shift the
world on to a sustainable and resilient path(United Nations, 2015a).
There are 17 SDGs, and 169 associated targets, in a genuinely
comprehensive vision of the futurein which little is left unaddressed
from the wellbeing of every individual to the health of the planet, from
infrastructure to institutions, from governance to green energy, peace-
ful societies to productive employment(Institute of Human Rights and
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1619
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1619.
https://doi.org/10.1002/pa.1619
Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/pa 1of7

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